Monday, February 13, 2012

Staging to Leave Again

Departure dates have been finalized, field gear is being acquired, lose ends getting tied, doubt and anticipation setting in; I’ve singed the next 12 months of my life away to volunteer work on two remote islands in the Pacific. On March 17th I’ll be jumping aboard a vessel bound for the Farallon Islands, a cluster on granite outcroppings along the continental drop off 28 miles west of the iconic Golden Gate. The mission: handle, band, measure, monitor, and count a variety of noisy nesting seabirds for the Point Reyes Bird Observatory (PROB). For 6 months I’ll be living in an old Victorian house on a pile of rocks covered with Common Murres, Western Gulls, Cassin’s Auklets, Ashy Storm Petrels, and a few other seasonal inhabitants which converge annually on the Farallon’s for one purpose; lay eggs. I’ll undoubtedly add to my collection of bird scars on my hands, trash my jacket with fresh guano, suffer temporary threshold shift from the squawking competing neighbors, and hopefully gain some inspiration in seabird research. To be honest, I just enjoy the experience of living in wild remote places.

I’ll return from the Farallon’s, with a few breaks to the mainland throughout the project, on August 1st. Just enough time to clean myself up and give a best man speech for Andrew and Brookes wedding, before jumping on an American Airlines flight west across the big blue to the islands of Hawaii. The Hawaiian archipelago as you may know consists on many smaller islands other than just the familiar Big Island, Maui, Oahu, Kauai, etc. There exists an extensive string of atolls and shallow reefs to the North West. I’ll land in Honolulu to prepare for a two day boat ride on a NOAA vessel to the small (very small) Tern Island, nestled in a sunken atoll known as the French Frigate Shoals. Similar to the Farallon’s, I’ll spend another 6 months harassing a more tropical swath of seabirds such as Black-footed and Laysan Albatross, Magnificent Frigatebirds, tropicbirds, terns, and noody’s. There will be 4-5 other volunteers stranded on Tern, probably the most remote a clan of five unpaid volunteers can get in the North Pacific, until March of 2013. I’m told there’s great evening snorkeling to be had, many epic sunrises, strange visitors from the depths, and all sorts of human drama.

Apparently I’ll have internet on both islands, so hopefully I’ll be able to share my stories with you all in real time. But first, I plan to enjoy the rest of my time here in California hanging out with friends, finishing that darn kayak, playing tug-a-war with Reef, and of course getting in my last surf sessions for a long time.